Like The Bends and His ‘n’ Hers, Grandaddy‘s first album is a ’90s classic that was quickly overshadowed by its immediate sequel. I’m not going to argue that Under the Western Freeway is a magnum-er opus than The Sophtware Slump, but to see it as a mere warm-up would be to greatly underestimate its value.
For one thing, Under the Western Freeway is home to some of the best songs of Grandaddy’s career. Summer Here Kids, A.M. 180 and Everything Beautiful is Far Away are arguably held in higher esteem than any individual track from The Sophtware Slump, and Laughing Stock is one of my personal favourites.
In a nutshell, this album is all about being unable to find happiness in an increasingly complicated world. For example, Everything Beautiful is Far Away is a (possibly allegorical) story about a man who is stranded on a distant planet and unable to return home; A.M. 180 is a plea to a loved one (“don’t change your name, keep it the same, for fear I may lose you”).
And it’s not just about being unable to reach the things that make you happy – it’s also about the disappointment you may encounter when you do finally reach those things. The narrator of Summer Here Kids is utterly failing to collect on summer’s promise of “a good time”, while the guy in Why Took Your Advice has made various positive efforts (fixed his radio, bought a microscope) but still failed to find any kind of contentment.
The message is clear: happiness is completely out of your reach, and you’ll never have it.
Originally published here: https://thealbumwall.blogspot.com